I’m a huge sci-fi fan and some of the movies that I really enjoyed was the Matrix series. One of the key technology trends is the rise of virtualization. What’s the link between the two?
A few news items caught my eye recently:
Two kids in the Netherlands were found guilty of robbing “Runescape and giving his assets to the two perpetrators.” These “assests” are not real but virtual – they don’t exist as tangible property as we would define property.
Turns out that a “…43-year-old Tokyo woman was jailed for murdering her virtual ex-husband’s avatar.” Now she was not charged with murder, but with “illegally accessing a computer and manipulating electronic data.” Nonetheless, the underlying deed was virtual murder.
“Stunt pilots have raced against computer-generated opponents for the first time — in a contest that combines the real and the ‘virtual’ at 250 miles per hour.”
So someone sits on the ground using a PC to race against real pilots in the air real time.
As I connected these seemingly unrelated dots, I start to see reality catching up to sci-fi. If it’s legally possible to hold people accountable for “virtual crimes” and if it’s increasingly possible to mix the real world with the virtual world, where does it all end up? The Matrix?
Virtualization is an incredibly powerful technology that, when you come down to it, uses technological smoke and mirrors to give you something like a PC that isn’t really a PC in the “traditional” sense. This PC passes the duck test.
There is an ongoing competition called the “Loebner Artificial Intelligence Prize.” This is a prize for the best computer program which can successfully emulate a human conversation, that is, indistinguishable between a computer responding or a human at the other end of the terminal. “A human judge poses text questions to a computer program and a human being via computer. Based upon the answers, the judge must decide which is which.” So far, none of the programs have passed the test.
Let’s extend this a bit – if something passes the “virtual duck test”, is this entity real in the corporeal sense, real in the virtual sense, or will it matter? Is it conceivable that electrons will become as “real” as cells? If a carbon-based entity were to do in an electron-based entity, would this be legally considered a murder?
Hmmm… maybe all you gamers out should rethink what you play – doing in a virtual character may not be as risk-free as you think.